#1237: The VOID’s Curtis Hickman on his book “Hyper-Reality: The Art of Designing Impossible Experiences”

The VOID was a location-based entertainment company that shut down during the pandemic and maybe coming back at some point. The VOID Co-founder & Chief Creative Officer Curtis Hickman convinced his partners to allow him to reflect upon and share the many experiential design lessons in a book titled Hyper-Reality: The Art of Designing Impossible Experiences. The book launched on June 15, 2023, and does an amazing job of sharing a ton of theoretical design insights that are grounded in specific examples and anecdotes from The VOID’s backlog of experiences.

Hickman is a big fan of lists and frameworks, and he includes lots of theoretical reflections with the primary structure of his 52 Laws of Hyper-Reality Design spanning four categories of Story Laws, World Laws, Guest Laws, and Magic Laws. These were the underlying principles of designing impossible experiences that The VOID would share all of the content partners, and he manages to seamlessly weave them together in digestible and fun-to-read book. Hickman is also a professional magician, and spends the second half of the book unpacking how he applied magic design theory to creating awe and wonder within the experiential design of the VOID.

I had a chance to talk with Hickman about his book unpacking his experiential design process, the four categories of Hyper-Reality Design, unpacking the mimetic storytelling affordances of VR, and the VR genres of action, adventure, and “Hyper-Reality.” which he defines as “the practical Illusion of an impossible reality so convincing the mind accepts it as reality itself.” We chat a bit about presence in VR, and a bit about how my elemental theory of presence relates to his four categories of Hyper-Reality with Story Laws focusing on emotional presence, World Laws focusing on environmental presence and embodied presence, and Guest Laws focusing on active presence, and Magic Laws focusing on Mental Presence.

Before I wrap up, I wanted to make a quick comment on a definition of experience that Hickman uses from Disney Imagineering legend Joe Rohde:

Experience is a record of relationships. Relationships between things that happen in the world, your body’s reception of the impulses created by that thing that happened, and the formation in your brain of the story you tell yourself about what happened. Since the last part of that sequence is the main part you are aware of, that means experience is a narrative event. It is what we tell ourselves happened. This means that a lot of the principles that you would apply in crafting narrative, say a play, a novel, a poem…

Hickman, Curtis (2023, June 15) “Hyper-Reality: The Art of Designing Impossible Experiences.” page 65. Independently Published.

I love this definition of experience because it is very much aligned with process-relational philosophy, which the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Process Philosophy says that “If we admit that the basic entities of our world are processes, we can generate better philosophical descriptions of all the kinds of entities and relationships we are committed to when we reason about our world in common sense and in science.” As Mesle says in his book on process-relational philosophy:

Just look at your own experience. Isn’t that exactly what your own experience is like? New drops of experience pop into being one after another like “buds or drops of perception” ([Whitehead’s Process & Reality page] 68, quoting William James). Each new drop of awareness is incredibly complex, composed of thoughts, feelings, sensory experiences, and deeper feelings of being surrounded by a world of causal forces. You can never make thoughts stand still. Your own flow of experience is a paradigm for the process-relational vision of reality laid out in Whitehead’s work and in the book you are currently reading.

Mesle, C. Robert (2018, March 1). Process-Relational Philosophy: An Introduction to Alfred North Whitehead. page 7. Templeton Press.

I have been advocating that Process-Relational Philosophy is a metaphysical paradigm shift that provides a solid foundation for understanding experiential design, and you can check out my previous conversations with Whitehead scholar Matt Segall on a primer on process philosophy, a second conversation with Segall creating more conceptual scaffolding for Process-Relational thinking, a conversation with philosopher Grant Maxwell covering 13 process-relational philosophers and thinkers, and a conversation with Andreea Ion CojoCaru on Process-Relational Architecture.

If you are at all interested in experiential design, then I’d highly recommend checking out Hickman’s book on Hyper-Reality: The Art of Designing Impossible Experiences.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. So in today's episode, we're going to be doing a deep dive into a new book on experiential design called Hyperreality, the Art of Designing Impossible Experiences by Curtis Hickman, who is one of the co-founders and chief creative officer of The Void. The Void was a location-based experience company that has since shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, but they were working with partners like Disney and Sony on intellectual property like Star Wars and The Avengers and Jumanji and Wreck-It Ralph and Yeah, just some really amazing location-based experiences where you're walking around to have these free-roam experiences. You're able to reach out and touch a wall. You have these haptic experiences with heat and wetness and smells. And yeah, just a whole multi-sensory experience that is trying to recreate aspects of reality and what Curtis Fickman defines as hyper-reality, as the practical illusion of an impossible reality so convincing the mind accepts it as reality itself. In this book, Curtis goes through a number of different frameworks and laws that he uses at The Void. In fact, there's 52 laws of hyperreality design that are split up into four different categories of the story laws, the world laws, the guest laws, and then the magic laws. And then he dives into different examples from the void, although you don't get to see any visuals of what you see or any videos or anything like that. So he's limited to being able to describe these experiences that were existing with the void. So he has lots of different frameworks that he's combining in this book that we'll be diving into throughout the course of this conversation. I did want to expand on one specific detail before we dive in. That's this aspect from narratology that is the difference between diegesis versus mimesis. So, the diegesis is communication of story through narration, and the mimesis is communication of story through imitation. In searching the difference on Google, I came up with Freiburg University, where they say, the distinction between narrative modes is as old as literary theory itself. Plato distinguishes between the two main types, mimesis, which is the direct presentation of speech and action, and diegesis as the verbal representation of events. The distinction was taken up by Aristotle and can much later still be found in Henry James's distinction between showing versus telling. So mimesis is more of the showing, and that's the direct presentation, and the diegesis is the telling and more of the mediated presentation. And Curtis Hickman is making the claim in his book, so many people are trying to use VR to tell stories. But that misses the true intent and ultimate value of VR. VR is an inherently memetic medium, which is to say that the purpose of VR is to mimic a reality. If you want to simply tell a story, why not use a medium that is better suited to diegesis and focalization, write a book, or make a movie? Am I really saying that you can tell a story better on film than you can in VR? There are always exceptions, but for the most part, absolutely I am. So there's certain aspects where I agree that the center of gravity of VR is a mimic medium. However, I have disagreements that you can't tell a story within VR because I've seen plenty of examples and I don't just think it's an exception. I just think that the new modes of storytelling are still being formed and I think it may actually come down to an issue of genre where I think a lot of what these hyperreality experiences that Curtis is focusing on is more of the action adventure type of genre. And there's other genres that I've seen where there's a lot more exploration for different modes of storytelling within virtual reality. But that's one point that I just wanted to give a little bit more of that context before we start to dive into his discussion of that later in this conversation. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Curtis happened on Wednesday, July 26th, 2023. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:04:06.271] Curtis Hickman: My name's Curtis Hickman. I'm the chief creative officer and co-founder of a company called The Void. ideal in immersive entertainment, especially with an emphasis on what I call hyperreality. In fact, just released a book called hyperreality, the art of designing impossible experiences.

[00:04:28.379] Kent Bye: Great. Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into the space.

[00:04:33.343] Curtis Hickman: Sure. So I'm a magician. I've been claiming that since I was in kindergarten. My first show was in kindergarten. I've been performing ever since. I love magic. And I took it very seriously. I was a magician for many years. I did everything from birthday parties to big shows and eventually designed effects that have been used by some big name magicians and published some books on magic theory. I do a bit of lecturing and won a few awards in that area as well. So, I have a big history in magic. But I also, as kind of my other job, when I wasn't doing magic, I would do visual effects, which to me was a way to wake up in the morning and your PJs to be able to create digital magic. And so, my background really revolved around those two areas. When Ken Brettschneider invited me to work on a little project called Evermore, which I'm sure most of those listening to this podcast have heard of, whether famously or infamously so. But that was an amazing project to be a part of. And I became the chief creative officer of that project for a while. It was a lot of fun working with Ken and it was at that time while working on Evermore and sort of in the blue sky phase of that project that we started discussing other options. And that's when we met James, James Jensen, who pitched this idea of, well, what if we tracked VR in three-dimensional space and had people actually walk around and they could touch things and be super immersed in the environment. And Ken and I thought that sounded awesome. So the three of us got together and formed a company called The Void. The Void went on to do a lot of really cool things. We had locations all over the world, most notably at Downtown Disney and in Disney Springs. with our partnership with Disney. We released a number of awesome experiences, Star Wars Secrets of the Empire. We did an Avengers experience. We did Ghostbusters. We worked with Sony on that, as well as the Jumanji experience. So we made a lot of amazing experiences. And the thing that really set The Void apart was our dedication to the concept of immersion and really putting people, and not just in VR, but allowing them to feel like they were there. So if you saw a wall, you could touch it. If it was raining, then you would get wet. All these things that were often used as gags in 4D cinema or things like that, we were using as kind of important ways to further immersion so that VR wasn't just your eyes. So we were the first, I think, commercial endeavor to really take it as far as we did. And we started that in 2014. Went really well, as I said, until the pandemic hit and kind of brought the whole thing to the ground. And the point had lots of problems. There were problems on the business side. We had numerous problems with getting the right leadership in place and a few other factors. But ultimately, the experiences are what I was in charge of. And I'm very proud of them that we won numerous awards. And to this day, I hear all the time people said that they're their favorite immersive experience and that they can't wait for it to come back, which is what I am currently working on trying to do.

[00:07:37.465] Kent Bye: Great. Well, that's great to hear. And you've also taken the time to share some of the lessons of the design inspiration. And I'd say it's probably one of the most robust books on experiential design that I've come across in this modern incarnation of this fusion of both virtual reality and experiential design. There's this immersive world and immersive theater aspect, but you're pulling in all these insights that you've learned from the void, but also your background in magic to be able to contextualize the different effects that you're creating. And so take me to the point when you decided to write this book called Hyperreality.

[00:08:15.284] Curtis Hickman: Yeah, the 2020 pandemic started void shutting down and I started thinking to myself, wow, this could all just disappear forever. And it would be a shame if all the stuff that we'd learned over the past seven, eight years, it was just disappear. So I talked to the void and said, would it be okay with you guys? This is void when we call void 1.0. And I said, would it be okay if I wrote a book about this stuff? And they said, yes, as long as you don't mention a, b, and c sort of things that they consider to be proprietary. I said, that's fine. So, I signed a paper with him and like, let's make this official. And that's when I started working on it. It's something I'd wanted to do for a long time. There's a Haunt designer by the name of Leonard Pickle, who is well-known in the Haunt industry. And he and I were working together at one point. And part of his bio said he was an expert. And I said, man, how do you become an expert? Like, that's such a cool title. You know, like, do you just put that on there? He's like, no, no, no. You write a book. The second you write a book, you're an expert and that's what you need. That always stuck with me. I'm like, oh man, yeah, write a book. That's interesting. And so, that was the first time it came into my mind. And then the second time was when Dana Ware, who is a brilliant creative designer in her own right, she was working at The Void as a creative director. And when she came in, she was awesome. She was like, so teach me, what do I need to know about The Void? And I wished I could have just handed her something and said, this is it. This is everything you need to know on how to design a good Void experience. But I didn't. So instead, I just sat back in my chair. I was like, where do I start? And so I was like, man, it would be cool to just write a book like this. And it was always a little internally kind of controversial. The fact that I wanted to do this because it's like, well, I mean, you're going to like people out there that try to do what we do and you're just going to tell them how to do it better. Like, is that really a good idea? And yeah, I always thought that was a really good idea. I didn't feel like this space was going to be overcrowded or that I was somehow going to like give away the farm by trying to communicate what I thought were good ideas and how to improve experience design, especially in this strange niche of an industry. So it never bothered me, never even thought twice about wanting to do it.

[00:10:17.609] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, I'd say the style of the writing is real readable and digestible because you're reading the main text and then you have the footnotes right there in the same context. You don't have to flip the pages or anything and you have this commenting on stuff. And for the deep divers who want to go deep into everything, you have the information, but you also have a lot of jokes and sense of humor that comes out there. So I thought it was quite consumable to read, but also there's such a vast amount of information that you are covering. And we're talking about the nature of experience that is already difficult to wrap your mind around. And so you have quite an interesting structure and say you have 52 laws split up into four different categories of the story laws, the guest laws, the world laws, and the magic laws. And the book isn't in chronological order for the laws. You're taking a whole other approach for how you start to digest it, starting with a lot of the story elements and then the world and then the guest laws and the magic you're wrapping up with, but it's not in chronological order. So I'm wondering how did you come across the structure of this book? Cause I imagine there's everything that's interrelated to each other. You have a number of different frameworks and systems that you're pulling in. How did you decide to how to actually turn this into a story that would be consumable?

[00:11:35.693] Curtis Hickman: That's a great question. My first consideration was that I wanted someone to be able to pick up this book and actually read it. I liked the idea of it not having to be just a reference manual that somebody would be like, okay, I need to go look up this list in Curtis's book or whatever. I wanted it to be something that could be consumed. And so I obviously put a lot of examples in. Books that are just theory that don't have practical examples drive me nuts because I want to be able to get from A to C, but they don't talk about B. And it's like, how did you get from there to there? So I wanted to do that. And so I started from that point of view of trying to be reader friendly. And from that point, I said, okay, so if I wanted a book, if I was just starting off, what would I need to know? And so the first draft I wrote, I jumped right into the history of the void and I wrote a bunch on that and then jumped into magic and then did a little bit of stuff with story at the end. And that was kind of my first draft. And. Like every first draft, it was a jumble because I had stuff on story in the middle of some of the things on magic because all the concepts are so interconnected that it was really hard to try and separate things out. But I let a few people read it and they said, Oh man, you know, you should really move this stuff here. And I got a lot of suggestions from a couple of internal void people. One guy named Paul Gerla, who I trust immensely. He's been with the void from the beginning and he made a lot of really great suggestions. And anyway, so I got kind of a high level view, you know, like that first critical mind dump. of what other people thought of all that information and kind of restructured from there. But even those early days, it was like, I want to talk about magic and let's just talk about magic as a subject. And then let's talk about story as a subject. And I knew I wanted those two things. And once I kind of pulled that out, I knew I couldn't just go through the laws and knock them off one by one. Because while that's certainly a structure that would make sense, I didn't feel like it would be as interesting as if I approached it from a more subject matter first approach.

[00:13:24.365] Kent Bye: Yeah, I thought that it worked quite well. It took a while for me to wrap my brain around the bigger picture because you lay out all the different laws at the beginning, but then you skip around. And so I'd love for you to maybe give an overview of the four major categories that's inspired by a deck of cards with 52 cards and four different suits. So you have the four suits of these different types of laws from the story law, guest law, world law, magic law, maybe could give an overview of these four suits that you're using in this book.

[00:13:53.815] Curtis Hickman: Definitely. And if anyone out there gets the book, I recommend in the back of the book, I put a few resources that I use, even myself, because they're pretty handy. And one of them is a list of the laws along with context to each one of the laws that you can refer to quickly. So you don't have to jump around the book and to find them all. You can actually just go to the end and there'll be reminders to what each law means and what they are. So it starts with guest laws. Those were the first 13. And the only reason those are the first way, it's a guest centric medium. I mean, it's all about building a story with the guest. So it was kind of this mentality. All right, look, the guest is going to come first. This is about them anyway. So let's have these first 13 laws be about guests. The 52 laws in general came to be over the course of a few years of the void. And then every year they would change a little bit after right up until we closed. And they were called the 52 void laws. Yeah. And they were guest centric because especially in the early days, it was all about like, how do we communicate to the guests? How are we going to make sure we get the guests through the experience in a way that they're going to understand and appreciate? And that all stemmed from our first experience, Ghostbusters. When people would step into the experience and they're ready to go, they've got their proton wand and they've got their backpack and they're ready to bust some ghosts. And we, Tracy wrote this great story that we worked on with Sony and the guests would come out and we'd pull them and be like, all right, what was the experience about? What was the story? And they'd go, I have no idea like what that, but we got some ghosts, you know? I mean, they were happy, but they didn't know what the story was. And so we felt like we were missing that aspect because they were living a story and they could tell us sort of the subjective narrative that they were living throughout the story, but they couldn't tell us the objective story very well. We were in an apartment building and we fought, stay puffed at the end, you know? And so we said, okay, we need to try and put some rules down when we design these experiences that are going to help people so they can better understand the story. And then something else would happen in the void. Somebody would bump into something or whatever. And we said, oh, you know, we always need to have chaperone walls up in this situation. This is so important. We have to tell our IP partner that this is a law, like this is cemented in stone. These aren't just maybe like, this is important. So it was right around then that we started calling them laws because we were trying to convey how important they were to our IP partners. And we started to write them down and, all right, here's this one, here's this one, here's this one. And then it became a lot like Mickey's Ten Commandments, which I mentioned a few times in the book. These guidelines, you know, Mickey's got commandments, Curtis has laws, but they're really important. I mean, we've sent them to everyone we've ever worked with and said, please read these and understand that when we mention something or we're making a decision, it seems weird to you, it's actually probably related to one of these laws. And we'll even tell you which one if you're really curious. And so it helped to transition partners to understand where we were coming from in this medium we were designing, which was kind of outside of the medium that they were used to, which was, of course, usually film. That's kind of where they came from. Like that's why they exist. And yes, there's guest laws, there's world laws, there's magic laws, story laws. So they're designed and set up in blocks of 13. I picked 52 because it was a deck of cards, right? I was like, all right, deck of cards, here we go. because I had more than 52 and I wanted to pare them down and actually make something manageable, you know. And so that's why they got separated into these blocks and some of them maybe fit better than others. But for the most part, I feel like it's pretty well organized. And the only one that's in any kind of order is law number one, which is about guest safety, safety first. And if safety is first, it's got to be number one. So that's very important to me. everything else aside, all the grand philosophy and pharmalogical approaches to think about whatever you're doing, it's like, come out and be in one piece, like, you know, like, if you're gonna have a good time, let's be safe about it.

[00:17:32.860] Kent Bye: Yeah. And also really appreciated the breadth of different references that you are pointing to throughout the course of this book. And I'm wondering if in the process of sitting down to write it, did you go out and do a bunch of research or had you already done a lot of that research just through the course of your experiential design history in that you're just pulling on all these different references because there is quite a lot of interesting references that you're pointing to from other either design disciplines and magic especially, but also just digging into different types of research throughout the course of the book as well. So from theme park design to VR presence research or other stuff from the magic world. So yeah, I'd love to hear about your research process and at what phase did you kind of lock the reading and exploration versus the writing?

[00:18:18.664] Curtis Hickman: Uh, it was maybe, If I'm being honest, it's probably like 60, 40, 60 like stuff that I knew really well and knew where the references were, especially true of magic and imaginary, like stuff I studied ad nauseum. When it came to things about VR presence, there were some things I knew, other things I had my own ideas and theories on, but I'd never looked it up to see if like, does somebody else think this too? And so when I wrote the book, started to look those things up and was like, Oh, cool. It's like, it's not just me. I wish I'd published this sooner in some cases, right? I get all the Miami, like, no, it was me first. So I wanted to find some of those references and put them in. And I'm sure there's more, like, I'm sure there's stuff in there. I'm like, Oh, this is what I call this. And somebody else calls it something else. But that was probably the ratio. I, there was a point, like you said, you have to sort of lock it and say, well, this is good. Again, I want to do it to be, more about the practical examples and stories and application than just digging into like a thousand papers because there's so many. I mean, there's so much stuff out there. I mean, I didn't put in half the stuff that I'd found. I don't know, maybe like 10% of what I'd actually gone through and could have put in, right? But that was the other thing is I didn't want to just write a book that was like, here's a bunch of stuff that you could also read somewhere else. You know, if you're buying this book, I would hope that you're actually getting information from it that is from this book, like that's where you find it, right? So, it was an interesting process to be sure, but what I did, I guess, back off the hunting down and investigating and academic side of it to a little bit of an extent, probably about three quarters of the way through, because at some point I was like, well, I'm never going to finish, you know.

[00:19:51.264] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think that the real strength of this book is that it is actually very grounded into the actual experiences that you created at The Void and that it's this through line of your hard earned direct embodied experiences and design processes that you've gone through and you've been able to kind of weave in all these different insights. There was something that was very early in the book I wanted to unpack a little bit where you're talking about this difference between the diegetic process of storytelling and the mimetic process, and that you were emphasizing how virtual reality as a medium is more of a mimetic medium rather than a diegetic medium. And I'd love for you to maybe elaborate on that point.

[00:20:27.692] Curtis Hickman: It's one of my more controversial things that I actually mentioned this in the book, I think that I tend to get called out on this often. And I actually even referenced at one point, Imagineer Mark Davis, who actually has said something similar about attractions in theme parks, like the immersive Disney sort of attractions, is that they're just not very good storytelling mediums. Not to say that they aren't great story mediums, that immersive entertainment can't be an amazing story medium, just that storytelling in that medium is hard. and that there are generally better suited mediums for storytelling. And that goes into the agency of the guest, which is to say that your participant in your reality that you've set up, they've got their own inherent agency. So when they come in, they've got the objective story that you're trying to communicate to them in a storytelling situation. But because you're not controlling the frame of where they're looking, like you would with a camera and focalization, you're limited to having to make sure and hope and pray that they are doing what you want them to do. And now you can obviously use things like, okay, the spotlight comes on here and we're going to limit the action and animation here and focus attention in the same way that you might like a play or something else. But again, now you're sort of degrading the experience to the level of a player or being in a theater, which like, okay, but go do a player, you know, like use a medium that's intended for that. and semi hyperreality or I mean, even just any kind of immersive medium where you're allowing that kind of affordances to the guest where they're allowed to look where they want to focus and pay attention on what they want and that they're in control of the focalization of the frame. You need to account for that. So I don't talk about it in the book, but like I've seen good storytelling experiences in VR, but only because they allowed and were conscious of the subjective narrative that the guest was in control of. And the name of it's escaping me right now, but there's experiences where a scene will play out and they'll make sure that it's designed in such a way that you can pick several different angles to understand what's occurring in the scene and make up your own decision about exactly what's happening in that scene, right? Likewise, I've seen terrible VR experiences where they're really trying to communicate just one story point and they are trying to limit all of your affordances, even subjective affordances, and just get you to follow a linear line through the experience. And to me, it's just You know, I mean, yeah, you can do it. I think there's better ways to probably tell a story like that outside of VR. Whereas VR has sort of these inherent agencies that need to be accounted for. And if you don't, it's just going to diminish your diegetic storytelling.

[00:22:54.922] Kent Bye: Yeah, I wanted to bring that up first, just because, you know, having gone to a lot of these film festivals at Sundance and Tribeca, South by Southwest, Venice at the doc lab, I see quite a lot of different approaches to storytelling within VR. And I guess the question that comes up for me is that there's different genres of storytelling. There's documentary storytelling, there's action adventure, that there may be different rules. So I feel like there's an aspect of your book and your rules that some of the rules seem to be pretty universal across all the genres of VR, but also there may be other things that may be specific to the genre of action adventure type of experiences that I think The Void was really exploring. So I'd love to hear some of your reflection on genre and how much you think that your set of laws are necessarily universal to the medium of storytelling in VR and what may be specific to what you're trying to do with this kind of story building and story living type of approach to storytelling.

[00:23:51.932] Curtis Hickman: Yeah, I mean, I call it the hyper-reality laws, as opposed to VR laws or opposed to anything else. I mean, it's almost one of the reasons why I insist on keep trying to force this term, right? Is that my goal is for people to live an impossible experience, not just anything. That's what those laws were focused on, was that sort of an idea, which lends themselves to sort of more adventurous, I'd say, genres, because those are the things that are really difficult to live through in normal life. You know, walking along the side of a cliff is great in Jumanji and it's fun and it terrifies some people. But in the real world, the size of that cliff would be very treacherous and extremely dangerous for anyone to go across, let alone a crocodile pit or, you know, giant spiders or whatever. So these laws are really intended as a focus around that medium. And you're right, they should be able to be extracted, not just through all VR, but through any kind of immersive design. A lot of those laws should apply really well. because of that impossible side of hyperreality of trying to get people to live an impossible experience and feel like it is actually real. that lends itself to that genre very nicely. Now, that being said, there are things that I talk about a lot in the book, like exploiting aliefs. I talk a lot about that in the book.

[00:25:03.908] Kent Bye: So just for the audience, you're saying that the belief is something that you believe in your mind, but the alief is almost like your embodied reaction that you may not be able to prevent. I've had experiences where I was on the edge of a building and I was on a object that was shaking. And even though I knew I wasn't there, my body would have this different reaction. So I think that's the essence of what a leaf is, is unconscious reptilian reaction that you have in your body that may trump whatever's happening within your belief. And so there's a suspension of disbelief, but there's a complete immersion that you're creating with the void of what is called this academic term of a leaf. I don't know if that's an accurate summary.

[00:25:41.664] Curtis Hickman: Yeah, that's good. That's good. Yeah. Professor Tamar Gendler was the one who came up with this idea. It's basically like an automatic belief. It's a belief, but it's automatic inside of you. It's ingrained and still in you. And it applies to everything from heights to always thinking you have your keys in your pocket and then you reach in your pocket subconsciously, even though you know your keys aren't in there. Like your knowledge and your belief system says the keys are in my pocket, but then you stand up and you go to your car and you reach in your pocket just automatically. So it's interesting stuff to study. And it lends itself really well. And there's things that have been comparing it to magic and subverting a leaf is what creates this idea of magic where, you know, someone holds out a ball and they let go. And of course your system says, well, that's going to fall and drop. Right. In the same way, the predictive coding theory, I think it's called. Yeah. Neuroscience.

[00:26:27.836] Kent Bye: Yeah.

[00:26:29.396] Curtis Hickman: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So this idea that there's this expectation, right? But once that expectation is completely subverted because the ball just floats in the air, it creates this discordant a-leaf, this conflict saying, well, that's not supposed to happen. And this concept that there's this sense of wonder that comes from that. So again, when trying to create an impossible reality, it's like, all right, so how can we exploit aliefs to get people to be immersed in the world by using things like heights or things that seem dangerous? But then there's also trying to build aliefs in the world. Oh, walls are here, things are real. And then later on, subverting those aliefs that have been established in order to create a sense of wonder. And we go over that in the book. I don't know, maybe that's getting in too deep here. But that's some of the stuff that I really like. If anything's keeping me up at night, it's that kind of thing, you know, is how do we create that sense of wonder and create impossible stories that can be lived? And ultimately, the story that I want people to come out with is less the objective story and even more the subjective story about what they did and how they were a part of that story. And if I can get both, right, where as the future marches forward, where everybody has their own unique objective and subjective story, then that's even greater. So yeah, it's this interesting combination of magic and the impossible. The story is to me what hyperreality is all about. And what I strive to accomplish at The Void.

[00:27:47.352] Kent Bye: Yeah. Mel Slater calls it the plausibility illusion. I also referenced the predictive coding theory of neuroscience, where you have the expectations of what you're expecting, and then you have the experience. And if there's a mismatch, then your body actually releases endorphins because it's trying to, yeah, a better and better prediction machine. And so if you're able to defy someone's expectations, it does put them in that state of awe and wonder. And the thing that I was really struck by with, especially the second half of your book, which is that you're diving into all your lessons from the realm of magic. And one of the magical rules is to not reveal your secrets. But in this book, you actually detail a lot of those different types of illusions that you were able to put into the void. And I've probably seen maybe four or five different void experiences. I was not in a town where the void was. I live in Portland, Oregon. So every time I would travel to either Las Vegas or Los Angeles, or, you know, you came to Oculus Connect one year. So I was able to catch them when I could, but I wasn't able to see all of the experiences, unfortunately. But when I came out to Sundance in 2016, I remember being able to come visit your headquarters at The Void there in Utah. And I remember going through and having, I don't know if it was the serpent adventure where I was in this really long walking, the longest I've ever walked in VR. And it was still to this day, one of the most magical experiences I've had, because it was this sense of complete immersion of this redirected walking trick that you had, where I'm actually walking in a semicircle, but I feel like I'm walking in a straight line. And it just felt like I was going on and on and on and on through this world. That was really quite an incredible experience, but it's just an example of one of these tricks that you can use to take these different perceptual illusions where you independently rediscovered redirected walking technique and all these other techniques that you had. And the second part of the book where you're itemizing all these different ways to manufacture this type of perceptual illusion or trick or to invoke these different moments of awe. So I'd love to hear you maybe elaborate on this confluence of your magical background and how you started to approach this experiential design through this neuroscience lens and also opening up this new canvas for you to explore these new types of illusions that you're able to create within the context of the void.

[00:30:02.302] Curtis Hickman: Yeah, sure. You know, the first magic book I ever read was a book of magic theory that my mentor Denny Haney sold to me, just like 10 or 11 years old. And, you know, at first I was disappointed when I got it because there wasn't a single trick in it, but I started reading through it and it had to do with showmanship and misdirection and it was interesting. And he told me that someday this stuff's going to be really valuable, trust me. And boy, was he right. Because understanding why magic works and how magic works has been a big part of my life. And taking those abstract ideas and then applying them directly to VR and sometimes indirectly to VR, it just opened up a whole world of possibilities. I mentioned in the book that one of the hardest things to do in magic is just the visual part of the effect. It's the sensory input part. I'm going to make this ball float. All right, so what are you going to do? There's only one way to make anything float, again, from a magic theory standpoint, and that's through invisible support, right? Or it's the illusion of something floating, right? Like a polygram or something. But for the most part, if you're making something float, it's an invisible support. So great. Is that thread? Is that air? Is that magnets? Like, what is it that's actually going to be doing that? And okay, you got to do that and then you got to create convincers that things flow. And it's like this whole process to make anything float. And the bigger the thing is, the heavier it is, the harder it gets in most cases. And then all of a sudden, this concept of VR comes along and it's like, man, shoot, that's the easy part, right? The easy part is making it disappear. You know, just like in the early days of film, it's like, oh, I just put a cut here, thing's gone. Magic. And so it was a bit, I can only imagine it as feeling like that, where all of a sudden, great, the easy part is taken care of, but how do we still make that moment magic to people? Because just like film, okay, you watch something disappear in a movie and it's no big deal. Yet people see stuff disappear on TV all the time and they're impressed. So, there's a way to do it. There's a way to bridge that gap and has a lot to do with convincers and all this sort of magic theory that at one point as a small kid, I thought was just getting in the way of me learning card tricks and ended up being critical to what I do and sort of what I've dedicated my life to. So it's cool like exploring the space and especially even just in writing the book, like there's certain illusions I've never had to even approach before because the story never called for it. But being able to write the book, I got to explore some of those ideas. How do you do a torn and restored effect that is believable? in VR. And so I talk about that in the book and what's one way you might be able to approach that. So anyway, look, Magic, it's the bigger part of the book. There was a lot to cover as far as material goes, but it's also to me like the least explored. I think as far as material that's already out there and available is the intersection of Magic and VR. So I was excited to write it and hopefully it sparks new ideas. And like, I can't wait to go to an experience, someone else's virtual Magic show that is just chock full of this stuff. I think it'd be awesome.

[00:32:57.683] Kent Bye: Yeah, you have quite a lot of different frameworks that are spread throughout the course of this book. You have the seven core perceptions of reality, presence, space, time, motion, matter, force, and life, where you go through each of those, how those start to get manifest through this second half where you go into these magic tricks and I really appreciated your ability to show the inner subjective reality and the outer reality. It helped to really flesh out each of these different techniques that you're applying. So you can really see this is what they're feeling, but this is what's actually happening. And here's the different perceptual tricks that you're able to do. But then you also have the whole Hickman's 12 conjuring classes, where you talk about the taxonomy of magic of like vanish production, transportation, transformation, penetration, restoration, animation, attraction, sympathetic reaction, impossible ability, property, time distortion, dual reality, and extra sensory perception. So you are really doing a deep theoretical dive into these magical principles into the second half. And again, I really appreciated how you're able to elaborate them, not just in theory, but actually how you put them into practice or concepts of things that might be possible. Yeah, I'd love to hear any other further elaboration of that dialectic between the inner subjective reality and the outer objective reality and how you're able to play in this really interesting liminal space where people's expectations are perverted because there's this gap where it creates all these new opportunities for you to play around as a magician.

[00:34:29.338] Curtis Hickman: Yeah, you know, one of my favorite parts of the book has to do with those core perceptions of reality because it's not something a magician generally thinks about is using illusion design to replicate what's normal. You know, there's an approach to magic that does that, right? Where it's like, all right, I want to make something vanish, then I need to create the illusion that this thing I'm holding isn't actually just hollow and can be crumpled up. I need to create the illusion that it is in fact what I'm holding. But then, of course, eventually that object disappears and it becomes an overt illusion. So here, dealing with weird illusion concepts that until the void never even crossed my mind, you know, how do you replicate matter and make it feel genuinely real? Or how do you make people walk through an infinite space? You know, what makes those so funny is that from the inner reality, right, the person who's inside of the virtual world, it's not magic at all. And to the person in the outer reality, it's not magic at all, right? It's only when you understand both realities side by side that it becomes impressive. And it's completely backwards from a normal magic trick. So obviously in the void, as you mentioned, we would do things with redirection. We had a demo where we'd have people walk down a straight hall and turn around, then walk down the hall again with their hand on the wall, then turn around, and then we'd lift up their VR goggles, and they would see that they'd walked in a curve, when in fact they believed very much that they had just walked in a straight line. And they were like, wow, it was again, it was like, it was like, that was the magic trick. But the two things separately aren't magic at all. It's only when the inner and the outer reality are compared that it becomes impressive which is again, completely backwards from a normal magic trick where once the person in your reality sees the outer reality, the whole trick's over because they've seen how the effect works and it's no longer magic. So, this is just a really fun concept to play with when it comes to illusion design. Yeah, so I had a lot of fun with that part particularly. And then with the Overdelusions, Hickman's Conjuring classes, man, like I've read so many books on the taxonomy of magic and nobody agrees. And it's one of those things where like every other year somebody comes out with like, well, here's the real taxonomy of magic, you know, and we're going to settle this once and for all. And then two years later, somebody else does it again. So I can't get enough of it. I love reading about it and studying that stuff. But I figured I'd throw my hat in as well. I needed a way to organize the book, like you say, anyway, so. I put my list in there. There's a lot of lists in the book and there's a lot of information, but I like lists. I like actually having the information just laid out so that if you want to go back and find it, you don't have to go through the text. It's like, just go through the list. There it is. It was the same way with the magic effects. Here's a list. Do you need something cool to happen in your experience? Go to the list, pick one that you would never have thought of doing. You know, most people don't think about sympathetic reaction as a very cool magic trick, but there are some amazing magic tricks that use sympathetic reaction, which is where, I don't know, let's say I've got a statue. on the left and someone from the audience positions this statue into a different form or shape. And then as they're moving in, there's like another statue on the other side of the stage that's doing the exact same thing in spite of having been inspected or whatever. Like there's some weird neat effects you can do when you step beyond just, oh, vanish, production, levitation, those kinds of things. So I hope when people go through the book, it's like take a hard look at the ones that you're not familiar with because those are sometimes the coolest things you can do.

[00:37:50.342] Kent Bye: And I will say that after reading through the main body of the text, it is nice to go read through that appendix where you revisit each of those different laws in chronological order. With a quick recap, it feels like a real nice synthesis of what you were able to cover and more of a popcorn style throughout the course of the book. And I think it really brings all those different I call them rules. He called them laws because I don't know. I feel like the laws feel like immutable where rules feel like more like you can break them. I don't know. I guess you can break laws too, but.

[00:38:20.658] Curtis Hickman: And that is actually what I'd say in the book is that laws are meant to be broken. And again, they are rules and guidelines and whatever else they need to be to make your experience better.

[00:38:31.150] Kent Bye: Yeah, I remember going to Sundance in 2016 and dropping by The Void and having that experience of that redirected walking where I didn't fully appreciate what you had done until you had essentially showed the trick. And a big part of The Void was that you never saw the back end of how that was actually done. So I think part of the magic here was maybe over the heads of a lot of people where they didn't really fully appreciate all the technological and magical innovations that you were able to do for them. They just figured that they're walking around these infinite spaces and they're not thinking about footprint and throughput and all these other things that you have to think about as a business for location-based entertainment. of these hyperreality experiences. You know, by showing me that redirected experience, you kind of violated one of those rules of the magician never shows how a trick is done. But I also really appreciated being able to see that because it was something that really stuck with me and something that I really couldn't process how it had happened. But yeah, I'd love to hear any reflections on how so much of what you're able to do with the void may be completely lost on people. And maybe that's part of the goal is for them not to be talking about the technology of the mechanics, but to just be focusing on the experiences that they've had. But I'd love to hear any of those reflections you have as a magician, if that's just part of the magician's lot in life to be able to blow people's minds, but then be left with this mystery of the awe and wonder that they had just experienced without really fully understanding all the reasons for how it was able to be made.

[00:39:56.960] Curtis Hickman: Yeah, there's an old saying in magic that you want to make the easy look hard and the hard look easy. And sometimes the most popular person at a magic convention is the juggler because that guy gets up and does this thing and you know how hard that guy works. Like that took a lot of time to get right. The magicians, you know, we get up having practiced endless hours to do something so that you don't know that we did it. And our only reward is if you get that sense of awe, then you're like, whoa, how'd that happen? That's amazing. As a magician, I've been in restaurants where I do a trick that I worked so hard on and at the end, the person would say, oh, you know, that's a trick deck. My brother's got one of those. I'm like, no, no, you can inspect it. And you're like, ah, he's just probably switched it, you know, and it's just heartbreaking just how much effort went into it. And it's like, all right, they think it's a trick deck and there's nothing I can do to convince them it wasn't at this point. So, it's a funny art form and The Void suffered from trying... Suffered is the wrong word. The Void struggled with walking that line. I talked at the beginning of the book about Cassandra's Curse and having this burden of knowledge of all these amazing things that are possible with this medium because we've seen it and we've lived through it and we've designed it and gone through endless experiences and we believe in it and then trying to convince somebody else that it's amazing and wonderful and awesome. And it's hard to do that without sort of revealing the trick and saying, no, no, look, here's the inner reality, here's the outer reality. And do you see how we put these two things together? And you can kind of comprehend and what that might feel like if you were in there. All of experience design is in some way or another often suffers from that, but never so much more, I believe, as with immersive VR, because At least if you're going to, you know, a big immersive space, you go to Omega Mart or somewhere, right? You got your camera out and that's like 90% of that place. It's just so you can like take cool pictures with your friends and walk around and experience this weird supermarket slash alternate dimension space. And it's awesome. But man, I'll tell you what, I worked on how to get people to take pictures in our experiences as like one of our R&D projects. So, they could just take their phone in, use their phone to take pictures. But that creates its own problems because now you've given them an affordance that why do you have your phone in Star Wars? You know, that's not the story they're supposed to be living. That's not the character they're supposed to have. So, maybe we back out of that because ultimately, I want people to really feel like they lived in a Star Wars adventure. And so with the magic of the void, you know, very early on, I was very insistent, like, never show backstage. The last thing I want is somebody to go backstage and be like, okay, what room must I be in now and to think of the outer reality when they're supposed to just be concentrating on the inner reality. You learn quickly that even when you understand, if you're very good at spatial design, you can still fool people no matter how well they know the stage. And so over time, I kind of backed off a little bit on the hard lines of those rules and we showed more of the backstage and we showed more of the effects to try and communicate what the experience was to people. But it's still a rule that I firmly believe in because I've done other immersive VR experiences where they just walk you into the middle of the room and then they put your headset on. And I could not shake the outer reality no matter how hard I tried. Whether that was just because of spatial design in the experience wasn't enough to trick my mind or whether it was just because I'd seen the outer reality, I couldn't say, but I knew where I was and I had to suspend my disbelief more because of it as opposed to just allowing the experience to take me.

[00:43:17.019] Kent Bye: Yeah, I've had the same experience that when you see the whole stage, I'm primed as to what to expect in the immersive experience. And so it kind of ruins that magic trick. I'm not able to fully transport myself into this deep sense of immersion and presence. And in your book, you kind of go through the process as you're designing experience. Although I don't know if you've ever explicitly say, here's our step-by-step process by which we design an experience. And it sounds like there are some stuff that you do first in terms of maybe do a rough list of things that you want to experience in the world, like Ghostbusters of like, you know, here's the types of actions that we want to take. But then you have almost like a mission statement where this is like the goal of what it's going to feel like and that critical thought. And yeah, I'm just curious to hear your process because you have had an opportunity to work with a lot of really major intellectual properties from Ghostbusters to Marvel, to Star Wars, to Wreck-It Ralph and Jumanji, you know, in some of your own original IP. So what was the process of either coming up with, where do you start with any of the, one of these rules and how do you start to avoid that diegetic sense of like wanting to tell a story versus the memetic? How do I give someone a representation of an experience that you're able to take these actions and get away from some of the traps of the diegetic way of thinking about a picture story and get into this more agency focused story building approach. And where do you begin with these experiences that you created at the void?

[00:44:49.463] Curtis Hickman: So we always, as you mentioned, we start with our experience wish list because it's an experience forward approach and medium. What do we want people to have experienced while they're in? So we don't think anything about story at the very beginning. We think, what do we want people to have done and experienced and felt? And what thoughts do we want them to have? You know, like, how do we get that feeling of being a Ghostbuster across? So oftentimes it starts with just sort of a very high level thought, okay, well, and usually it's pretty self-evident, but you know, the first time I pitched Star Wars, it's like, I can't want to know what it's like to be a Jedi. Like I want to know how exactly how it feels to be a Jedi. And here's my wishlist. And they were like, Nope, no Jedi. Sorry. We can't everything we do be Jedi. So, you know, let's talk about what else we can do. So it's like, okay. And so we started talking about what are the other things that make Star Wars, Star Wars, right? Particularly like the wars part. How do we get into like the middle of a war without actually being on a battlefield? Like how do we convey that feeling? And there's things on that list that made it and things that didn't. And one of the things that made it was like, well, we want to meet Darth Vader. Like, how do we not do that? Right. And thankfully it happened, but it starts with that list. All right. So, and Ghostbusters, I always give the example of Ghostbusters, which is the example I give in the book as well. But it's easy because it's like, I want to get slimed by Slimer. I want to cross the streams. I want to find the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I want to catch a ghost. And how do we make these moments possible? And then we take that concept and usually we go to the IP holder and say, okay, what stories are there in this world that we can pull from? Or what ideas might you have that we can use to help frame these experiences and to provide meaning and motion value to these experiences? And we work with them to kind of come up with that storyline. And then we write a first draft of a script and we use the diegetic medium of a script to represent what will eventually become, hopefully, a more mimetic format. So there's little tricks and things that Tracy Hickman, who's my dad, but was also The Void's lead and I think only author for the majority of the time at The Void, but also just a brilliant guy in his own right. He had a lot of little tricks and things he would do with the script in order to help make it more compatible with the medium we were trying to convey with mimesis. And so we'd write that script, it would go out, script would come back, lots of changes, lots of revisions. And then we gray boxed the thing and we'd start walking through. And honestly, it's, tell the story in the book, but when we did Star Wars for the first time, I remember I was out in San Francisco and they said, all right, we only got like two days to figure out what this experience is going to be and what the experience beats are going to be. and to actually map it out. So what do you want to do? And I was like, look, if it was up to me, I'd move all your desks out of the way. We'd tape out a stage on the floor and we would just walk it from room to room on the stage as if we were there. And they were like, all right, let's do that. So we did. And it was awesome. And we walked from room to room. It was full size. So just taped it out and walked room to room and said, okay, now what happens? Now it happens. And We had to know the timings of every beat and where everything was going. And so that's another thing we do a lot early on is even before we gray box, we actually have some physical representation of the stage and we would act out the experience over and over and over again so that we could get those beats right. And then the timing's right.

[00:48:02.616] Kent Bye: Yeah. And one of the things that you explore in the book is the concept of choice and agency. And you go back to Sundance of 2016. Actually that's the first year I went out and there was asteroids that was playing. Eric Darnell had this choice at the end of asteroids where You could potentially make a choice, but it wasn't really a choice because if you didn't make the choice, it was going to make it for you. And that you were upset about that, that there was a choice that didn't really matter that you're kind of forced into the choice. It wasn't really an actual choice. And And so I was surprised to hear how much of that ethos of those choices that you had integrated into the void, which obviously there's going to be aspects that are going to be converging where you're more flavoring your experience rather than having this more infinite branching narrative type of experience, because you have a limited amount of time and throughput that you have to get people through, but also just, you don't want to have exponential choices. But I was surprised to hear about the different Easter eggs, as it sounds like you've created in there where you do actually want to provide that opportunity for people to have multiple ways of doing things. So this seems like an existential tension between this infinite amount of possibilities that you may do versus the budget and the constraints of how much time and energy and money you can put into making experience. And so love to hear how you start to navigate that tension between Trying to expand out in a possibilities versus the limited amount of resources to do that.

[00:49:30.924] Curtis Hickman: It's the most, it's funny. It's the books about hyperreality, but if there is one constant thread in the book, it's that idea that the constraints of time and money make everything harder. And perhaps that's just the inner voice in me just coming out, uh, complaining a little bit that I just don't have infinite money to do really cool stuff. But it's a line you have to walk. And honestly, it just came down half the time to saying, okay, what would be cool and what do we need to have in and how many people are going to experience that thing if we do put that in and balancing how cool it is, how expensive it is and how many people will see it. And then half the time being wrong about how many people would see it. And then the other half being very grateful that we did it. Having an alternate ending to Ghostbusters, I was actually very grateful in the end that we did it because there were a number of people that didn't cross the streams or that would just, for whatever reason, just say, yeah, I'm not going to shoot him. You know, like, just be that guy. That's just like, what are they going to do, you know? And it made that just like a tiny bit more real to have that alternate ending in there. Nicodemus has an alternate ending. that we put in that, honestly, you have to go through the experience several times to find it because it is kind of a deep gamification, sort of an element that you had to have read the book, found the clues in the book, and then done the experience and applied the clues from the book to the experience in order to get that alternate ending. And the alternate ending of Nicodemus was the end of the book. which was super fun and I'm glad we did it. But the number of people that actually went back like five or six times to do it, I mean, look, the fact that anybody did it was great for me as an artist. Like I'm like, yes, somebody actually did this, you know, but balancing the constraints of budget and time, I might have approached it differently the next time I would do it. As interesting a concept as it was. So yeah, I honestly, I wish I had like a rule of thumb that I could just say was the right answer for that. We honestly would just take our best guess and say, this is going to be really cool. People are going to reach over and they're going to touch K2SO. And then one in a hundred people touch K2SO and you feel like an idiot for having built a full size K2SO to stick in the corner, right? And then on the other hand, you run test plays and all of a sudden everybody's doing this one thing that you thought nobody would do. And that's when you say, okay, great, we're going to put something there to allow for that affordance that we didn't account for previously. The other hard part for, honestly, so many people come to the void. We're so new to VR or even the concept of being in a virtual world that they would sort of limit their affordances. They would limit what their capabilities were within the experience. you know, in Star Wars, we had two consoles. One, you'd press buttons on to try and open one of the doors and the other one, if you just tried to push buttons, all of a sudden like turrets would come down and shoot stormtroopers or gas would come out. I mean, it was like this really cool little Easter egg that I did not want to tell people about because the discovery is so important for me in experience design. And people would find it and would tell other people about it, but that was a slow turn. It was hard for people to not just focus on the gun in their hand and to explore their environment more. And to me, some of that just comes down to education because people had been in immersive theater or in VR for longer would go in and they'd find that stuff right away.

[00:52:37.043] Kent Bye: I wanted to ask about some of your takes on presence because presence for me, at least seems to be a core phenomenological baseline when you're going through all these different experiences. And you talk about personal presence, which I think about as like embodied presence, like your sense of yourself, but there's also the local presence, which I think is environmental presence. And then the social presence where you are there with other people, there's a lot of social dynamics that you're exploring. I'd also throw in there like emotional presence and active presence of the agency and the plausibility and the mental presence.

[00:53:10.935] Curtis Hickman: Well, I'd throw in a, if anyone hasn't seen your elemental theory of presence theory, like I think it's awesome. So whoever's listening, if you haven't checked that out, I remember the name of the video that that's on, but that's awesome. So I highly recommend that.

[00:53:24.642] Kent Bye: Yeah. I sent you a story con keynote. That was basically my digest of all that. But that for me has been a good baseline for understanding at a core phenomenological level, these different components and you're touching in the embodied part, the environmental part and the social part, but love to hear how you start to kind of weave these concepts of presence into your process of experiential design.

[00:53:45.848] Curtis Hickman: Yeah, it's interesting. I think having these different sort of Aspects of presence is maybe how I refer to them, right? Is there's the aspect of how active you can make an experience or the social aspects of experience and again, tying into the gamification or tying into communication and emotional presence. are all aspects of the whole. And I tend to, when I approach design, try to look at presence from a holistic view, from the large scale of the experience and say, okay, what kind of character are there right now? What's their engagement in the experiences that I talk about in the book? You know, my words are witness and victim and sleuth and killer. And so like, what's their engagement with the story at any given moment in an experience? And so I kind of look at the beats, the experience through that lens. And then I say, okay, and so now how are they using that engagement to affect these different aspects of presence, which is to say there has to be an emotional through line that goes through the story. And these aren't things obviously that are new. It's just a way of attaching sort of, I would say, very old principles that apply to story design and then bringing them forward into the realm and applying them to the construct of presence. Because people have been trying to immerse people in their books or in their movies emotionally since they started almost since the beginning. So there's so much material out there that has been written on gamification and how to do really good gamification, how to get people active in an environment and how to get people emotionally invested in a story or in a character or in a world. How to get people to engage and connect socially within a play space, whether inside of VR is one thing, but outside in other constructs is another. And I feel like it's important to go and find those external attributes or those external learnings and knowledge and bring them into VR because all of them apply. You know, as you mentioned, I'm especially interested in social because we put people into the void and it's almost a requirement that you go in with other people because they really are designed for that interplay between people. Obviously, the physical side of things, I talk a ton about that. I talk a lot about the social dynamics of it, the gameplay stuff, which is to say, I guess, more of the interactive stuff. So, I have this term of objective story affordance and subjective story affordance. And I use those terms to try and convey this idea that there's ways that you can affect the general story but there's a whole ton of ways that you can affect just your personal story as you go through. And there's active subjective story affordances and there's passive subjective story affordances. These names get very long but it's the active subjective story affordances that really fascinate me because they're the ways that someone is affecting their own experience that don't actually cost me the expense of having to design a whole other ending or having to change the entire alternate experience, but I can dramatically change how they lived through the experience. Grabbing two guns in Star Wars was a, I can't remember if, I don't know if that was Diana Williams' idea or not. But by the way, Diana Williams, I want to shout out to her because she was instrumental in making that experience as amazing as it was. But anyway, in Star Wars, you could grab two guns and it was just, again, we just let that be something you could do. And so if somebody wanted to go all Rambo, usually if there's three people in a group, they would see there's a fourth gun there. Like we'd always put out four guns. And if they decided to pick up two guns and yeah, it would work great. And it was crazy. And it created a completely different story dynamic. Obviously, it still ended the same way with Vader. I talk about why in the book, but it ended the same way. But how you got there was very different. And to me, that's your active choices, how you're interacting with the story in a way that doesn't actually change the bigger story. So, I love stuff like that. I love finding ways that we can create those active subjective story affordances. I think that's fascinating. We would include more and more gamification as time went on with The Void only because people asked for it. Honestly, it was people just they want to be compared to their friends. They want to be judged and measured to some degree. How well did I do? So, we need a way to be able to show that and we would try and do that as diegetically in the context of story. and world design as we could, meaning that eventually we started doing points in Star Wars and really you would get a score and it was your bounty. This is the bounty that the Empire put on your head, meaning this is how well you did, so how mad they are. And so Wreck-It Ralph was easy because you were in a video game anyway. So we got to do it that way. And in Jumanji, we added gamification elements because it was Jumanji. So we would kind of find ways to include gamification. Even in Ghostbusters, we would include more even traditional game elements to help create a metric that people could be compared to and judge things by. And then emotionally, honestly, there's a lot of film techniques that we would borrow from as far as color design and we would put people into the role of being what I would term basically a witness. You might argue they're a victim, but basically a witness where they're standing there and they're just watching Doctor Strange do a dialogue. But for some people, just that moment was their favorite moment. When they were doing nothing was their favorite moment because they got to be there with Dr. Strange who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch who is actually acting the scene out and that was awesome for them. For their people their favorite moment might be Ghostbusters because they've always wanted to be a Ghostbuster and they got to actually cross the stream to blow up this tape of Marshmallow Man and that moment was their favorite moment but that's a much more active moment. For other people, it's puzzle solving and that's the thing that they like the most. There's more cerebral things that we would put into an experience. It's like, oh, no, no. Remember, we figured out the da-da-da. That's how their story would change as they came out. And so, I love actually the way you talk about the elemental theory of presence because I feel like It's a good way to approach all of these different ideas and techniques in a way that's simple to sort of remember in this sort of quadrant of a philosophy that can be easily referred to in mind as you build and create experiences. Anyway, I don't know if that answers the question, but that's definitely what was in mind.

[00:59:22.654] Kent Bye: Yeah. And thanks for watching that talk that I gave, because I actually think that your four suits can be roughly corresponding to those different elements because the story laws are all about the emotions that are coming from the story. And then the world law is all about the embodiment and the sense of presence in the place. And the magic law is all about the plausibility and perception and tricking the perception and your expectations and the mental friction and ways that you're doing those magic tricks to play with expectations and perception. And then the guest laws I put as more of agency because they're locomoting, they're moving, they're taking action. You know, how can you not make them look foolish? How can you always make sure that they're having fun and it's all about them being in action. So I think actually the way that you split up these four laws are roughly corresponding to like the guest laws being active presence and more about the fire element and activity, the story law being about the emotional presence and the ways that the story is putting them into the sense of emotional immersion. And then the world law. all about the world design that you're doing, all the passive haptic feedback, you're doing mixed reality, you're creating all these sensor experiences, all these other dimensions of the heat and the smells that you're also all the sensory experiences that you're doing with the void that made it so special as like embodied presence and environmental presence. And then the magic laws where you're kind of using all your magic tricks to trick people into these mental presence modes of perception and expectation. So I think you've actually kind of in your book, at least from my read, as I was reading through it, trying to match my framework with your framework. I think the challenge is, is that Experiential design is a new realm where it's actually blending together all these different existing design disciplines. And there isn't necessarily uniform grammar or language to be able to talk about at all. And I feel like part of your book is trying to push forward into that theory to have the language to be able to talk about what you did so that you can unpack what you're talking about You know, there's things that you talk about in terms of the spectrum between whether you're a witness or victim, or you're the quote-unquote killer. I prefer the skimmers, dippers, and divers, because it's a little bit less about death or killing. Sure, yeah. It's more about the degree of immersion that you have, if you're just more on the passive side versus if you're willing to be the deep diver, then you're taking these deep actions. And Devin Dolan, which you mention in your book, I had a chance to do an interview with him, where he's talking about this juxtaposition between embodiment and agency. So are you a ghost? Are you embodied? Or are you not embodied? Or how much degree of your agency that you have an experience? And so can you actually make choices that change the narrative outcome? So when I think about agency, I think about it in terms of the narrative agency of the choices that you make a change in the story, your embodied agency to move around your agency, to talk to other people and your choices that may be modulating your emotional experience, whether it's a song or other colors that you may be making a choice that are flavoring your experience, but not necessarily change the narrative outcome. So I feel like there's a lot of these different frameworks and evolving grammar, but I appreciated the breadth of your book, exploring all these different things.

[01:02:20.797] Curtis Hickman: Thank you. Thanks. Yeah. It wasn't something I actually ever referred to before, but I put it in the book because as I was writing it, I'm like, well, this fits and it's a nuance really, but I would call it the suspect, which was somebody that thought that they could be the killer because they think that they're making decisions and affecting the story when in fact they're not at all, which is a very magic, you know, an illusion design way of approaching it because in the inner reality, they think that they're making decisions in the outer reality. They're just not at all. And there were a lot of really fun and some things I couldn't put in the book, but there's a lot of fun design techniques around the suspect, which I'm not sure how that would fit in with the skimmer diver thing. But it's around that concept of somebody who believes that they do have autonomy and control that in fact don't. It's interesting to me because ultimately, it doesn't really matter. If their story is that they had control autonomy and they really do believe that, then that was their reality. And so, you know, what's the difference really? Other than I could actually afford to make the experience that they went through.

[01:03:16.319] Kent Bye: Here's to hear any reflections on, again, going back to this concept of genre, because when you have specific genres, like a murder mystery, as an example, which is, I guess, part of this Hitchcock metaphor where he was saying that people are either a witness, a sleuth, or a detective, or they're a killer. And was there one other one that he said?

[01:03:37.593] Curtis Hickman: Witness, victim, sleuth, and killer. I do mention this in the book. Actually, it's in a footnote, is that he didn't actually say it. I was told he did. A friend of mine at Disney Research in Europe found the actual where this stuff comes from, and it turns out it wasn't Hitchcock that said it. So I put it in a footnote because I figured no one would actually look up the footnote, but it sounds more romantic to say that Hitchcock said it, so I'll stick with that.

[01:04:00.977] Kent Bye: Right. Yeah. There's a, from a research paper, I guess that someone wrote about Hitchcock's work where there's, there's these different archetypes. And I feel like depending on the genre, there's likely going to be emergent archetypal roles that you can start to play that you start to get into more of the live action role play, which at the end of the book, you start to get into more of the future looking things where we start to move forward, where you start to think about how can you really start to expand out into these infinite realm of possibilities? What are these different, archetypal expressions that you maybe want to explore in this kind of holodeck way. So yeah, I'd love to hear any reflections on as you think about the future and maybe as you are in the process of potentially kickstarting the void again, how things like artificial intelligence or live action role play or an immersive theater may start to close some of those gaps of story where if you have another human, maybe they're able to hold those infinite realms of potentialities a little bit better than a computer would. Or if that's just beyond the scope of what you can scale up with what you'd reasonably want to create. And if there's a stop gap of different types of things like artificial intelligence or other ways of being able to explore this realm of potentiality that I feel like is a big thing that you've been exploring with the void and is really the bottleneck of being able to actually generate all these content possibilities as we move forward into the future.

[01:05:21.025] Curtis Hickman: So the section on the future, I wrote first, which means it's the oldest section of the book, which is really funny because I talk a lot about AI in that section. And back when I wrote it, AI was barely a thing. Say in 2020, it existed, but it wasn't like today where it's like every email I get or whatever, it's all about AI. But I wrote it because I have thought for a long time about how do you get to that place where you really do get to have a meaningful yet infinitely variable objective story. And then taking that concept of saying, okay, we can live out any story and it actually still has meaning and value. And how do we take that out of the void and place that into the real world? And again, this gets deep into like, there's a lot of weird ethical issues. And there's a lot of problems with people just everyone living in their own reality and all of that. And I kind of set all that aside just to explore the question for a minute in the book. And eventually it just becomes a point where everyone gets to decide what reality they want to live in. And they get to live out to an extent stories that they get to participate in. And what does that do to people's growth as individuals? If all our content for living and all of our experiences are curated is something that is interesting and terrifying to me. What happens when AI becomes not just predictive based on the past, but predictive in ways that actually predicts courses forward. Again, it's a weird thought, but it's this idea that AI can never overtake ultimately me as a writer, because ultimately I'm still a person living through life and living through the events that are occurring as a person. And so I'll always have a sort of a unique perspective. But again, for the sake of argument, what if that weren't true? What if we could design so that that still wasn't a case? In the same way that I can go on to stable diffusion and make a really cool piece of art that anyone would be like that's awesome, that is awesome art. You know, could we create a story that had such profound meaning that somebody like reads it and it means so much to them that they are just in tears because it's so awesome and then could you extract that into an experience that they then lived? And how does that change who they are as a person? And what does that mean when that's done on a mass scale with a bunch of people? I mean, basically, from a very high level, it's this concept that we can make reality what we want of it. And the question I don't ask in the book, but leave hanging there and with a few footnotes of caution, could we possibly ever do that in a way that is good for us? Because, you know, we're just essentially talking about the powers of gods and saying that we get to make our reality exactly what we want it to be. Assuming that the sundries of life are provided for, right? Your basics of shelter and everything else. And again, all the essences of life is set aside. And so, I sort of touched on that at the end of the book and I decided, because man, I could go way down that road and I could talk on it for a really long time and honestly, what I think about it and why I think it's probably a really bad idea, which is such a funny, weird thing for me to say as someone who designs hyperreality experiences. And a lot of that has to do with faith in humanity and the responsibility of people to actually use that technology for our benefit and everything else. So, and I say this to Kent, who knows far more about ethics in virtual worlds than I've ever, you know, you've forgotten more about it than I've ever learned. But, but it's stuff that I do find interesting and get concerned about. But regardless, that potential is out there. And so I did want to at least touch on it in the book as to like, this is somewhere that we are headed or could be headed. if certain things fall into place and we just need to make our decisions earlier on how we're going to approach that future or the consequences. And again, I don't say this in the book, but I'll say this on your podcast where the consequences could be disastrous.

[01:09:05.202] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think certainly we're in this confluence of these exponential technologies that are all rapidly developing and being blended together. So as I go to these different film festivals, I'm starting to see different intersections and I think what's happening with the immersive theater world. And as that starts to blend together, what Jason Moore's doing with alien rescue with doing this kind of live action role play with VR, I think is a key part. And as you start to think about potentially bringing back the void, then having these location-based entertainment, I think there's certainly a market need to continue the work that you started. I did have a question around, like this book feels like it could be a whole semester's worth of content. That's way more than we can cover in this 90 minute conversation. And the challenging part is that you're referencing a bunch of these experiences that are no longer available. and in some ways they're archiving of what those experiences were, but I went through probably about half of those experiences and I have like a feeling of what those experiences were at the end, but there's so much of the experiences that I forgot because I didn't archive it or write it down at the time or didn't do an interview. So for the people who haven't seen those experiences, is there any possibility for any like video archive of what the experience was or any other thing that people would be able to watch and kind of get a sense or is your book it in terms of the written description is what we get in terms of these experiences that once existed in these LBE, but are now gone because of a variety of number intellectual property licensing and whatever else reasons. So is there any possibility for either video or a special opportunity for people to go and actually experience all these experiences again in the context of either learning or other future possibilities as we move forward?

[01:10:51.070] Curtis Hickman: That's a good question. I've thought a lot about that. For now, the potential is because there is a non-zero chance that I could bring any of the Void experiences back. And as long as there is a non-zero chance that they could come back, we're preserving that possibility by not sort of releasing just the content onto YouTube or something. In the book, there are no pictures of the experiences. You know, I know that people complain a little bit about that. Like, why don't you show me, you know, like what happened in the experience? It's like, well, when I wrote it, I couldn't even know if I could use void content when I was writing the book. Because again, particularly when I was writing the book, so it made it sort of a challenge. And I did my best to sort of describe things as well as I could. But if there ever comes a day where it's like, you know, this is just never going to happen, I'll make a push to friends of mine in the industry and the powers that be to make some sort of archival record or whatever you want, but like showing what those experiences were, because it'd be a real shame if they really did just vanish into nothing.

[01:11:43.750] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, even in the absence of that, I think your book is able to capture the gist of what happens in those experiences. I think as a pedagogical tool, to have those together with being able to ideally see the experience, or at least have some proxy of the experience, I think would help to also bring home the combination of the external and internal that you're able to achieve in these different experiences. I say that just from my own poor memory of trying to recall all these details of, I was like, I know I've seen this, like I said, half the experiences, but I was enjoying the fact that you were reminding all these other nuances that I maybe wasn't paying attention to at the time, or I don't recall because it's been a number of years. But yeah, I think in terms of a teaching tool, this is an amazing resource for people to be able to use and reference. And it would be even more amazing if they would be able to actually see all this stuff. So fingers crossed for that nonzero chance for people to in the future, be able to get the most out of this book. That's TBD, I guess. Definitely. And I guess finally, as we start to wrap up, I'm curious what you think the ultimate potential of immersive storytelling and hyper-reality might be and what it might be able to enable.

[01:12:51.802] Curtis Hickman: I, maybe this is going to sound corny. I was once asked by an immersive designer friend of mine, Kenzo, Kenzo Digital, who is an awesome guy. He says, how do you measure success? Like what's your metric? And for me, my answer is it's how much positive change can I affect? Meaning that change is something that's hard to do. It's hard to get people to change. It's hard to influence and create positive change. It's hard to create any kind of change. People don't want to move in general. I like the idea of art or my art and my work, especially when it comes to VR and hyper reality to be used to affect positive change. Now with that comes money because you can't make that stuff if you don't have money. And so like money becomes an element of your ability to affect positive change. And so therefore it's part of the metric of success, but it's not the only metric. And in fact, it's not even the first metric. It just happens to be part of the equation that leads to that end result of affecting positive change. And, you know, everyone can sit down and argue what does positive change mean and what does that really entail? But there's so many things, you know, it's as maybe positive change is just somebody learning more about their environment because they really didn't think much about it. And so now tomorrow they're going to start recycling. So that's education. Maybe positive change has to do with a company's workforce becoming better or safer because they're receiving training in that area. Maybe the positive change is they had a crap day and they just got to go escape in Ghostbusters for 15 minutes. and they feel better. And that was a positive change. So to me, there's so many different aspects and values and things that can be done with virtual reality and hyperreality and XR in general. And for me, the success of the ultimate success of the medium is hopefully one that brings about positive change. And yeah.

[01:14:39.721] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[01:14:45.466] Curtis Hickman: Um, Please go buy my book. I'll go pitch my book. It's on Amazon, Hyperreality, The Art of Designing Impossible Experiences. If you like it, leave a good review on Amazon for me. That'd be awesome. And just thank you. The reception of the book has been phenomenal. And it's always very nerve-wracking kind of putting your heart out there like that. And so to have the positive reception that the book's gotten from my peers in the industry has meant the world to me. So thank you to everyone that has read or is going to read it. It really does. It means the world to me. It really does. I'm getting a little almost like emotional about it, but it means the world to me. Thank you so much.

[01:15:22.906] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. It's a real tour de force of not only capturing all your wisdom and experiences that you've gained at the void, but synthesizing it into, like you said, you love these lists and the theoretical aspect of trying to create these different frameworks. And not only that, but to put it in a way that's actually readable, which is not easy to do to be able to see how you actually applied each of these principles and practice. And so there's a lot of this. theory and practice dialectic that you have in this book that I think makes it quite a unique contribution because there hasn't been a lot of other books that really have the scope of the different type of work and the depth of insight that you have from, like I said, pulling in all these different insights from these different disciplines from theme park design and magic and experiential design, virtual reality and cinematic storytelling. You're fusing all these different things together in a really beautiful way. So, yeah, thanks again for taking the time to write the book in the first place, but also to spend some time to help break it all down here on the podcast. So thank you so much.

[01:16:19.166] Curtis Hickman: It's been my pleasure.

[01:16:20.608] Kent Bye: So that was Curtis Hickman. He is a chief creative officer and the co-founder of The Void, and he wrote a book that was published on June 15th, 2023, called Hyperreality, The Art of Designing Impossible Experiences. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, So if you're interested in experiential design and working with the medium of virtual reality, I highly, highly recommend this book, because there's just a lot of really useful information from not only the practice of how Curtis has applied these walls to these different experiences at the void, but also these deeper theoretical frameworks from different modes of magic and taxonomy and he's diving into the 52 laws of hyperreality design which are inspired by a card deck where there's 52 cards across four suits and 13 cards in each deck and just the same there's 13 laws in each of these subcategories and so throughout the course of the book he starts with the story laws which I associate with more of the emotional presence of the different ways that the story modulates your emotion Then he dives into a little bit of the world laws, which I see as both the environmental as well as the embodied presence. And then the guest laws, which are much more focused on the agency of those guests. And so I see that as the active presence. And then the magic laws, which are much more about all these different perceptual tricks and creating illusions, which I see as more of the mental presence. There's also different aspects of the social presence, which I think are spread out throughout the course of those laws as well. So yeah, I think for the most part, most of these laws are pretty generalizable. However, there are things that I think are very specific to the genre of what he's calling the 52 laws of hyper-reality design. They're not the 52 laws of VR design across any context. And so because they are aimed at creating these impossible experiences or these hyper-reality experiences, then I think there's certain things, just as an example, One of the laws is discovery has priority, discover, then suggest, then direct. I think in some like 360 videos or other ones that are trying to tell a story where there is a little bit less agency, I think it does depend on the context as to whether or not you are emphasizing this type of open ended exploration and discovery where Sometimes you just want to limit those constraints but I think generally a lot of these laws are trying to get to the essence of what the Affordances of the medium are and if you really want to explore the affordances of the medium this is a really great starting point and when I start to think about this question of the Diegetic versus the mimetic where he's saying that VR is more of a mimetic medium and that if you really want to tell a story consider telling it in a different medium like a book or a movie or whatnot, but from my perspective there's mediums like even film and vr are kind of a blend of mimesis and different diegetic elements anytime there's dialogue that is a diegetic aspect of the medium there's non-diegetic narration that happens sometimes and so as they're priming you into the onboarding process of the void they have you go into this Briefing where they are able to use these different short films that are integrating more of these explicitly diegetic aspects of storytelling So they're helping to set a broader context before you go into the experience But even within the context of a film which has a center gravity of trying to preference showing over telling there's still dialogue and narration habits in film and so just the same I think there's still aspects of integrating diegetic and mimetic aspects of storytelling within the context of virtual reality as a medium and So there is this little section where Curtis makes a little comment about VR documentaries. And he says, this is what makes many VR documentaries so frustrating to me is that not only do you have no control over the objective story, but very often have little control over the subjective story. You basically have to look where they want you to look, listen to what they want you to listen to and go where they want you to go. Engagement is very limited. you know, there's different experiences like Celine Tricard's The Key, or The Book of Distance, or Huang Shuang Qian's Samsara, or Bodyless, where they are exploring more of having you take these variety of different embodied actions within the course of the film. And there is a little bit less exploration. So I do think that there is this open ended game like quality of experiences within VR that are emphasizing that type of user agency but you know there's going to be a variety of different narrative structures that are going to be used in the course of storytelling and that not all of them have to have this exploration of high agency in order to Still be able to tell a good story. So back in episode 1160 I did an interview with the co-authors of collective wisdom co-creating media with equity and justice and in there William Uricchio and talks about the documentary as a medium and he says that nonfiction filmmakers have been at the forefront of innovation with emerging technology. More than 90% of the films copyrighted in the first decade of cinema were documentaries. Some of the first color films, the first sound films, the first uses of portable synchronous sound technologies were documentary. So I just wanted to read that little section there because at the forefront of all the innovation of these new media, documentary as a medium is often at the forefront. And that's what I focus on a lot when I go to these different film festivals from Sundance, Tribeca, South by Southwest, Venice, Immersive, and if a doc lab, you know, Documentary is the majority of these different forms of storytelling and so there's a lot of experimentation that's happening there and to different degrees of how much agency is there but that's why I say that some of these different laws that Curtis is focusing on in his opinions around the diegetic versus memetic aspects of storytelling and VR may be specific to the kind of action adventure or hyperreality experiences that he's really interested in exploring and However, there's different genres and focus of storytelling that are happening in other things that are being explored within the context of VR documentaries that he hasn't been doing as much of the deep dive over the last couple of years as he's been working and focusing on what's happening in the context of The Void. So I'd push back on that a little bit. In actuality, I think that the medium of VR is using both the memetic aspects and diegetic aspects as well. So I think overall, the book does an amazing job of setting forth this broader framework of these different laws. In ethics, there is the difference between virtue ethics that has these higher level principles versus the deontological aspects of ethics, where you're creating a number of different rules. And so there's a lot more of that kind of deontological rulemaking in this book where he's got a number of these different guidelines and rules to be able to follow of experiential design. Whereas my approach tends to be a little bit more the virtue ethics side where I'm looking at these higher level principles of the qualities of presence and the character and story and context and how all of those are being played out across the variety of many different genres of virtual reality. But this is a really great combination because he's coming from the bottom up of these rules, but also giving you some very specific examples of how he was applying those rules across these different experiences within the void. Like I said, at the end of the conversation, you don't get to see any of the photos or have any videos of these experiences. And I think that in terms of a teaching tool, it'd be nice to be able to connect some of these different things for people to be able to have their own director experiences with it. because there is a non-zero chance that the void is going to be able to come back then there's a lack of that external visual reference to be able to see the experience or see at least some recording of the experience to get a sense of how the flow of the experience was going. So maybe that'll happen at some point but if you did have a chance to go to the void then you can draw upon your own experiences and then rely upon Curtis's descriptions of those experiences that you can use to kind of imagine what it might have been like. So the first half of the book is really going through a lot of those laws, starting with the story laws and world laws, and then some of the guest laws. And then the second half of the book is really diving into the magical laws, but also looking at both the overt and covert ways of doing magic, where it was really interesting to hear Curtis talk about how The real magic of these experiences was knowing what was happening in the inner experience, but also seeing how it was correlated to the outer experience. There's a lot of ways that they're doing these variety of different perceptual tricks that it's only when you see both the outer and the inner that you really appreciate the magic of the trick. Otherwise, you're just going into the awe and wonder of having this amazing experience without knowing any of the larger mechanics for some of what may have made it technologically super impressive for some of the different techniques that they were able to do. But in the second half of the book, he's really breaking down some of the specifics of those techniques that are really inspired from his background in magic and how he's creating a variety of these different perceptual illusions. So again, I really highly recommend this book, especially if you are doing any type of experiential design, because I think it's got a lot of different takes on different principles. And, you know, like I said, there's going to be things that are going to be pretty universal that are going to be applied across any aspect of virtual reality. And I think there are going to be things that are very specific to this genre of hyper reality or action adventure type of experiences that the void was doing. And yeah, it's a great read. That's fun to read the different footnotes and you kind of go back and forth between the footnotes and there's like certain amount of levity, but also pointing you to a lot more information as well. So there's a lot of other references that he's pulling in that you can go follow up with more information. And the other final thing that I'd say is that any aspect of experiential design and trying to synthesize all these different design frameworks, there is going to be a certain amount of trying to cultivate the language around that. So this is another aspect of this book is that he's trying to establish these different terms that he's using. He has a whole glossary where he has the different terms that he's defining that we talked about a little bit Yeah, that's one aspect of the space, is that in order to really fully describe the aspects of it, authors like this are forced to create these neologisms where you have to understand what they mean by some of these terms that you may not be familiar with. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast, and if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. so you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicestvr. Thanks for listening.

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